BALTIMORE – Campaigning in Baltimore’s Lexington Market one morning, Dr. Terence A. McGuire came face to face with the most daunting issue of his gubernatorial campaign: his own anonymity.
“I don’t know who you are,” admitted one apologetic passerby who had been handed a brilliantly yellow McGuire flier.
From a political rival, such a comment might elicit a finger-pointing rebuttal from the sometime sharp-tongued McGuire.
But for the potential voter, McGuire extended his hand and a patiently delivered self-introduction.
As a practicing physician for 27 years, the Prince George’s Democrat has never held public office. His campaign is being run by his brother, Dr. James D. McGuire. His treasurer, Joseph Quinn, is an accounting professor from Salisbury State University.
McGuire had collected just $18,100 in donations to his campaign through the Nov. 10 reporting date, and has donated $105,000 to his own cause through bank loans.
But what McGuire might lack in political support, he makes up for in personal style.
Stepping out of his black Lincoln Town Car in a dark suit, his reddish hair slicked back, he emerges at a campaign stop ready to schmooze.
He can be a fiery speaker who decries the “cadre of influence peddlers” that he says controls the state. His campaign is based heavily on a passion to re-open state government to taxpayers.
On the issues, McGuire aims broadly, and for the most part, his promises echo with an idealistic absolutism: He aims to have all Maryland children proficient in math and reading by the fourth grade; he pledges to “control frivolous spending and return money to the taxpayers;” and he vows to end parole for all violent criminals.
As a staunch pro-life candidate, McGuire is opposed to all types of abortions. He says he would continue the push for a ban of partial-birth abortions and for the introduction of a parental consent law for minors seeking abortions.
During a September speech to the anti-abortion group Defend Life, McGuire promised to wage a fierce campaign against what he called the “most liberal abortion law in the country.”
“I say to you here tonight that if I ever back off from my commitment, may I burn forever in the deepest part of hell,” McGuire said during the speech at Loyola College, according to a transcript on his campaign website on the Internet.
Born in Capitol Heights, McGuire, 55, earned a biology degree from Georgetown University in 1964 and graduated from the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore in 1968.
His upbringing in a racially diverse environment, combined with his Seat Pleasant medical practice, has helped McGuire appreciate a variety of ethnic perspectives, said Joe Tickles, a longtime McGuire family friend and campaign worker.
“I know a lot of people who look down on you if you’re not like them. [McGuire] treats you as an equal,” said Tickles, who is black.
Tickles also credited McGuire’s Catholic upbringing as a root of the candidate’s compassionate nature. That strong Christian faith helped McGuire win the endorsement of the Prince George’s Baptist pastors group, Pastors United in Prayer and Sharing.
The pastors endorsed McGuire as “a new face with a new approach,” but by September’s primary, he simply hopes to be a recognized face that can collect a winning share of the vote.
A recent poll of 408 Democratic voters by Mason-Dixon Political/Media Research Inc. gave McGuire only 2 percent of the vote, placing him fourth in a five-way race. Gov. Parris Glendening led the poll with 45 percent, and 32 percent of voters were undecided.
Such predictions bring out the fiery nature in McGuire, who called the poll “baloney.”
“If we’re going to run the election by the polls, why don’t we just cancel the election and have the pollsters decide who’s going to be the candidate?” he suggested sarcastically.
But a University of Maryland political scientist said “amateur candidates” like McGuire traditionally have a harder time in Maryland, where voters place more faith in establishment politics than in other parts of the country.
McGuire’s “chances are almost nil,” said James Gimpel, associate professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland.
“They’re not totally negligible. All the other candidates could die,” said Gimpel.
McGuire responded by noting former Maryland governor Harry Hughes’ surprise election win in 1978, despite the predictions of “professors and pundits in the academic milieu.”
“I think that what [Gimpel] needs is to find a real job,” McGuire said. “If I am elected governor, I will see that all college professors work a 40-hour week and teach their courses now being taught by graduate students.”
McGuire said he wants to offer his own, more conservative platform to voters as an alternative to Glendening. He said he is in the race because he is convinced that Glendening cannot win a rematch with Republican Ellen Sauerbrey, the expected nominee who lost the 1994 race by only 5,993 votes.
Glendening campaign officials scoffed at the notion.
“Parris Glendening has already shown he can beat Ellen Sauerbrey and he’s going to do it again,” said Peter Hamm, a spokesman for the Glendening campaign.
Heather Clapsaddle, political action director for Maryland Right to Life, said that while the Republican party is often criticized for intolerance toward the pro-choice position, Democrats are rarely questioned as to their pro-life reticence.
She said that while it is too early to endorse McGuire, she is enthused by his decision to challenge the pro-choice incumbent Glendening.
“The Democratic party is starting to wake up,” Clapsaddle said.
McGuire supporters feel their candidate could provide the bugle call.
“If he gets the nomination, the party will go berserk, because they won’t know how to deal with it,” said retired Marine Lt. Col. Robert Dalton, a McGuire volunteer and longtime friend. “But they’ll have to back him.”
On the Lexington Market stop, McGuire handed out fliers with an unabashed optimism. The Baltimore shoppers, he said, represent the heart of his constituency.
“These are the people,” he said with a wave. “This is where my campaign will be.”